"Shepherd Book always said, 'If you can't do something smart, do something right.'"
Being a good and honorable person is anything but easy
; it requires personal sacrifice that most normal people aren't willing to make, either out of self-interest, self-preservation, selfishness or any other number of reasons
Heroes who abide by this trope more often than not act in a manner that, while morally sound and honorable, is far from the most practical solution. Quite often this kind of decent, chivalric behavior will come at a great cost to the hero's happiness, kill him outright, or similarly leave him a destroyed human being
. A villain aware of such a gallant hero is bound to use Flaw Exploitation
against him as well.
Put another way, a character who adheres to this trope, is someone who is more committed to a particular code of abstract ethics
, than they are to their own self-preservation. They believe in a pre-defined set of rules which universally apply, and they will not break said rules, even if their own death results in adhering to them in one particular instance. These types will usually justify that, by claiming that living with the shame that results from having broken said rules, is worse than death itself.
In other words, they have character
In stories on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
, the more the insistence of honorable behavior seems impractical, or even insane, the greater the chance that it becomes the thing that turns a hopeless situation into victory. As a result, the honorable hero is vindicated and the cynics are left completely stunned at what happened.
In stories on the cynical end... well, not so much.
An especially poignant situation is Turn the Other Cheek
. Often, and perhaps running counter to the theme of honor besting all, the hero has to be aided by Big Damn Villains
, who are able to cross that final line that his integrity would not allow.
When done well and/or consistently, such acts of decency fan the flickering flames of idealism in the viewers' hearts; they make them cheer even harder for the hero and inspire a desire to be just as pure and honorable. When done poorly... well, the term "Lawful Stupid
" comes to mind, as does Martyr Without a Cause
This trope is also subject to some degree of Values Dissonance
, as some actions will be seen as both honorable and
reasonable to a society with a certain set of beliefs. For instance, a society which believes in an afterlife ruled by a Higher Power
that judges according to a rigid code of morality would see the "honorable" choice as being also "reasonable" by virtue of the fact that the person making it is sacrificing a temporary advantage in this life for a permanent one in the life to come.
Often features in I Gave My Word
, In Its Hour of Need
, Rebellious Rebel
; the Proud Warrior Race Guy
typically follows the rule, as well. What You Are in the Dark
always reveals the same character as when they are seen. When a character does this to the point that it angers their more corrupt superiors, expect them to become The Last DJ
. The McCoy
is the personification of this trope. More Hero Than Thou
disputes are sometimes this, when only one character is really suitable for the sacrifice. Can lead to the hero being prone to fall to things like the False Innocence Trick
. See also Victorious Loser
and Small Steps Hero
Shoot the Dog
is this trope's opposite: Reason Before Honor. Usually
not a trait of a Combat Pragmatist
due to their approach to fighting
Compare/contrast with Incorruptible Pure Pureness
, Good Is Old-Fashioned
, The Fettered
, Noble Demon
, Martyrdom Culture
, Revenge Before Reason
. Contrast No-Nonsense Nemesis
and Blind Obedience